Play By Post Quick Guide

Copyright Andrew Ridgway © 2005

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

"If you have never tried something like this before, I can highly recommend it, as it costs nothing to try and is easy to do."

I've been an active member of the ICE official forums for some time now, and one of the posts by a chap called Romp intrigued me. He was offering to set up a 'Play By Post' (PbP) for HARP, and a few people on the forums including Tim Dugger signed up to give it a try. I'd never played other than face to face role-playing before. This was a chance to play with people all over the world that I had met on the forums, so I decided to join in. My experiences in this novel style of gaming form the basis of this article.

Once I decided to join in, I had to head over to rpg.net and start posting in a recruitment thread, where we discussed what style of game we wanted, the background to the adventure ,and worked out character concepts. When enough people had joined Romp opened up an OOC (out of character thread), where we could discusd anything not in character, such as house rules, down time due to holidays and anything else including the weather. We also posted our PCs here which were created using Jonathan Dale's Excel spread sheet. Some GMs prefer you to mail them the PC character sheets to keep some things secret from other players and to edit them to suit the setting. As with face to face play, every GM has their own style.

When all the ground work had been completed, an IC (In Character) thread was opened. A list of the PCs was placed in the first post, the second being an introduction to the adventure. This introduction is key as it creates the atmosphere and the flavour to the game, and Romp's was excellent.

Then we all started posting in character, introducing ourselves and building up relationships within the party. What surprised me was that it was much easier to do than in face to face, as even the quietest member of the group is empowered to post at the same rate as the more vocal. Unlike real life, it's not just who shouts the loudest that gets heard, so in that respect it is a great leveller for the more shy player.

Action was fairly straightforward too. Not long after our PCs met up in a bar, a small fight broke out, which though it took a couple of weeks to resolve, flowed well, with Romp making all rolls for us. For our part, we posted a string of actions with some what-ifs and general standing orders to make his life easier.

The game has now run for some six months. Several of the starting players have dropped off and Romp has had a lot of overtime so he has had some quite big gaps in posting. Due to the way it works, this isn't a problem as you don't have to invest much time to play in one of these games to get quite a lot out of it.

So how is the role-playing? Well, it's actually very good, as you have time to consider your responses so it's easier to post in character, and as you aren't amongst a group of people, there are no inhibitions about playing a character.

Though the gameplay is slow, the fact that you can participate in several games at once and you can get to play with people all over the world, makes this a good alternative to playing face to face if you can't find a group, and you can play it in addition to your regular roleplaying as well. If you have never tried something like this before, I can highly recommend it, as it costs nothing to try and is easy to do.

In fact, I like the concept so much I set up a gaming forum of my own, initially for HARP and Rolemaster games. I have now opened it up to any non-d20 game as they are the games that need the support and whose players have problems finding face to face groups.

It's worked out very well so far. The new forum at www.rpgRM.net was opened just before Christmas and we now have 65 members and 7 active games, one of which I run, with others recruiting. So if you want to find out more come and ask, membership is free so you've nothing to lose but a bit of time.